Boating in NC While Impaired

G.S. 75 A-10(b) prohibits the operation of any vessel while underway of the waters of this state:

(1) while under the influence of an impairing substance; or

(2) after having consumed sufficient alcohol that the person has, at any relevant time after boating, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.

In addition, G.S. 75A-10(b) bars a person from “manipulat[ing] any waters skis, surfboard, non-motorized vessel, or similar device on the waters of this state while under the influence of an impairing substance.” Violation of this provision is a class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by 60 days in jail, and a $250 fine and court costs.

Unlike impaired driving a motor vehicle, you are not deemed to consent to testing to a chemical analysis if charged with impaired operation of a boat. A refusal to take a breathalyzer when charged with boating while impaired will not revoke your driver’s license.

If a boater refuses to consent to a breath test, then an officer must get a search warrant to take the boater’s blood sample.

If charged with boating, skiing, or surfing on the waters of this state while impaired, law enforcement must inform you orally and in writing of your rights which are as follows:

  • The test results, or the fact of your refusal, will be admissible in evidence at trial.
  • After you are released, you may seek your own test in addition to this test.
  • You may call an attorney for advice and select a witness to view the testing procedures remaining after the witness arrives, but the testing may not be delayed for purposes longer than 30 minutes from the time you are notified of these rights. You must take the test at the end of 30 minutes even if you have contacted an attorney or your witness has arrived.
  • In addition to a breath or blood test an officer will most likely try and have the defendant perform standardized field tests. These test usually include, HGN test, hand pat test, reciting numbers, on the boat and the one leg stand and walk and turn tests on land. I do not recommend someone that has been on a boat should take these tests. Exhaustion, off balance with sea legs, salt spray, the sun and other factors can cause someone not impaired to appear under the influence.

Resources: NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

Other than boating while impaired, we often represent boaters that have been charged with reckless operation, following too closely, not in compliance with boating education requirement laws, expired registration, lack of decals, expired fire extinguishers, navigation lights out, and not enough life jackets.

A new law has been passed in North Carolina that requires all boaters approaching within 100 feet of a law enforcement vessel displaying flashing blue lights to slow down to a no-wake speed and use caution in passing. If you are in a narrow channel, the distance becomes 50 feet of a law enforcement vessel. All violators are subject to fines up to $250, along with the set court costs. This ‘move over’ law is similar to that which is applied on highways, requiring motorists to move into a lane away from law enforcement or emergency vehicles.








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